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A speech disrupted and deconstructed: On the arrogance of Betsy DeVos giving a commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman University

May 12, 2017

On Wednesday, US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gave the commencement speech at one of the nation’s historically black universities, Bethune-Cookman University, located in Florida.

Current students and alumni had opposed having DeVos be the commencement speaker, because of racist and insensitive comments she made about black colleges and universities being “schools of choice.” The opposition was public, with marches, formal statements and a petition campaign that had generated some 50,000 signatures prior to May 10. 

When DeVos was introduced students began booing and yelling to attempt to drown out the Secretary of Education. Many of the graduating students also stood and turned their backs on DeVos and the administration that invited her, all of which can be seen in this video.

While much of the news coverage focused on the student opposition, little was shared about what Betsy DeVos said and attempted to say. A story on Buzzfeed included these comments from DeVos: 

“One of the hallmarks of higher education, and of democracy, is the ability to converse with and learn from those with whom we disagree,” she said. “I have respect for all those who attended, including those who demonstrated their disagreement with me. While we may share differing points of view, my visit and dialogue with students leaves me encouraged and committed to supporting HBCUs.”

Like much of her speech, reasonable people would take issue with what she had to say. In all the years of monitoring the activities of the DeVos Family and Betsy DeVos in particular, there is little indication that she is interested in conversations with those with whom she disagrees. In fact, what Betsy DeVos has demonstrated over the years is that she has used her family’s deep pockets to fight against people she disagrees with, particularly those who support public education, LGBTQ rights, public sector unions, pro-choice advocates, working class people in general and anyone who wants to keep religion out of the public sphere.

Betsy DeVos attempted to say many other things during the commencement speech, much of which was difficult to hear based on the videos and often ignored. However, it is worth deconstructing some of the comments from her speech, which can be found in its entirety here.

DeVos’s speech is entitled A Calling to Service, Courage and Grace. One question we might all ask ourselves is how does someone who was born into and married into the billionaire class practice service. It is well known that Dick and Betsy DeVos have numerous people working in their home ion Holland in varying capacities, but primarily as domestic servants.

Early on in her speech DeVos said, “I am at the table fighting on your behalf, and on behalf of all students across this great nation.” This has not been historically true, since Betsy has fought against public education for several decades, both by creating entities such as the Great Lakes Education Project and by funding anti-public education and school privatization campaigns across the country. 

What was most disconcerting about the Education Secretary’s speech was her misuse of comments from the university’s founder Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. DeVos said there were three main themes she found in reading Dr. Bethune, one of which was that we should, “take responsibility for your families and your communities and never tolerate inequality or injustice.”

So how does Betsy DeVos reconcile her being part of the billionaire class when so many millions of families live in poverty? How does her class privilege relate to not tolerating inequality or injustice? Simply put, it doesn’t. Betsy DeVos, along with the rest of the capitalist class, made their wealth through injustice and inequality.

Lastly, towards the end of her comments, Betsy DeVos stated, “And when some pursue dissention, you can engage in debate with grace and poise, just as Dr. Bethune did.” While it is true that Dr. Bethune may have displayed a tremendous amount of poise and grace in her lifetime, the reality is that it was precisely because of her dissention, and the dissention of countless other black educators, that HBCUs were started throughout the country. Like any struggle for justice, black colleges and universities were build on dissention against institutionalized racism and white supremacy., something Betsy DeVos would know little about.

Housing Justice through a Historic and Intersectional Lens: Looking back, imagining forward and fighting right now

May 11, 2017

(The following post is based on a presentation given on May 10 at the monthly gathering hosted by Spectrum Health Healthier Communities.)

What I want to do is look at a brief history of housing justice in Grand Rapids, then look at the current housing crisis and lastly to discuss some possibilities about how to organize for the future.

This first slide is important because we need to acknowledge that the founding of Grand Rapids is rooted in the displacement of the Anishinaabe people that lived along the Grand River in the early past of the 18th century. The imagine you see here is of some of the early christian churches, because they played a significant role in the displacement of Indigenous people.

The early displacement is what Native scholar Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz names as Settler Colonialism, where Euro-Americans took Native land and colonized those communities, slowly pushing them out. This reality needs to be named the original displacement, which is what the West MI blog, If theRiver Swells, has identified it as such.

The above slide is a picture of the home of one of the furniture barons in Grand Rapids, William Gay. The amazing account of the 1911 Furniture Workers Strike by Viva Flaherty, documents that most of the 8400 people working in the furniture industry in Grand Rapids at the time, the average wage of those furniture workers was $1.91 per day. Thus, most of those who worked in the furniture industry did not own their own homes and the homes they did live in were very basic, often with extended family members. This wealth disparity between furniture barons and furniture workers translated into the capitalist class living in luxury and working class families living in substandard housing.

In the next slide below, we can see a map of the city of Grand Rapids, which at the time of the 1911 furniture workers strike had 12 wards. One of the lessons that the furniture barons learned during the 1911 strike is that working class people had too much support and sympathy at the city government level. The capitalist class crafted a ballot initiative in 1916 to change the city charter to reduce the political structure from 12 wards to three wards, a ballot initiative that was passed. This meant that the diverse ethnic communities in Grand Rapids now had less political representation after 1916, which is important in thinking about the larger political climate and how that impacted housing justice at the time. Essentially, the charter change was a form of class warfare against working class people.

The next several slides looks at how racism and White Supremacy has factored into housing issues, particularly as it impacted the African American community. The first example looks at how white residents in Grand Rapids felt so privileged that they could actually petition the city government to deny black people to buy homes and move into white only neighborhoods. Housing segregation was systemic in the early part of the 20th century and was perpetuated because of the structural racism that existed at that time.

The next slide in many ways speaks for itself, since it provides a snapshot of the housing conditions of the African American community in Grand Rapids, based on a 1940 Urban League report.

The next slide provides a summary of another report produced by the Urban League in 1947, which has a section on the housing conditions for the Black community in 1947.

After WWII, much of the US highway system was constructed. In Grand Rapids, the construction of US 131 and 196 resulted in the destruction of hundreds of homes and the displacement of roughly 4,000 working class families. You can see from the images below that just east of St. Adalbert’s Catholic church, where the beginning of US 131 was being constructed, was once an area where hundreds of homes stood. The other photo depicts the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce sponsored ribbon cutting of the opening of the highway in Grand Rapids, especially since their members were not negatively impacted by the destruction of homes and displacement.

This next slide is based on the research conducted by Todd Robinson for his book, A City Within a City. Robinson makes the point that there was massive White flight beginning in the 1960s, since White people did not want to share neighborhoods with African Americans and because of the fear that White people had as it relates to the growing political disenfranchisement of the Black community. Not only did White people move to the suburbs, they took a great deal of wealth with them that deeply impact neighborhoods throughout the city.

The 1967 riot in Grand Rapids was sparked by police repression of several black youth in July of that year. Some of the rage in the Black community targeted rental units in the southeast side and businesses that were owned by White people. The images you see below are from the corner of Jefferson and Buckley SE and Pleasant St, near Jefferson. In addition, you can see the front page of the Grand Rapids Press from July 26, 1967.

What is instructive from some of the media coverage of the 1967 riot in Grand Rapids, were the comments from white people in communities close to Grand Rapids. In the slide below you can see the White Supremacist attitudes reflected in the comments, attitudes that mirror much of what we have seen since the Ferguson and Baltimore uprisings in recent years.

Lastly, after the 1967 riot occurred, the Planning Commission from the City put together a report about the riot, along with recommendations. The report is entitled, Anatomy of a Riot, which you can read at this link. It is interesting that the report suggests that the market should determine housing outcomes for the African American community.

Now that we have looked at some of the historical context into housing issues in Grand Rapids, lets look at the current crisis. I was asked to look at the homeless population and at least provide some data on those currently experiencing homelessness. First, maybe we could use the following definition of what it means to be homeless.

Next, we can look at the fairly current data taken from the Grand Rapids Area Coalition to End Homelessness. This data only reflects the number of people that were living in shelters, transitional housing, on the street or in cars.

What is problematic about this data is that is woefully underestimates the amount of people who are homeless, since it doesn’t include those that are temporarily staying with friends/family. The data also doesn’t include the thousands of people who are a paycheck away from being evicted or foreclosing on their homes because of losing a job or lack of adequate income. What I am proposing is that we view housing justice through a more complex and intersectional lens, that moves beyond the language of homelessness to what we might call Housing Insecurity.

All of these populations have been negatively impacted by the current housing crisis and are experiencing housing insecurity. Lets begin by looking at the issue of poverty in Grand Rapids and Kent County. This first slide is based on data from Kids Count Michigan and shows that 1 in 5 children lives in poverty. In the case of Black and Latino children the number is 1 in 4 are living in poverty.

In this map, one can see that higher levels of poverty are disproportionately located in neighborhoods where Black and Latino families live.

In this next slide you can a graphic from a recent report that identifies Grand Rapids as being 3rd on the list of top 10 cities with inequality.

In the following slide, we see another map based on a study done by the Economic Policy Institute, which shows the Grand Rapids/Wyoming metro area as having the worst income disparity in Michigan.

The next slide simply reflects the massive amount of wealth disparity between just two families and half a million children living in poverty in Michigan.

The graphic below shows the growing number of millionaires in Kent County from 2010 to 2014. This data can be found at the following link.

The next slide provides data on what someone would have to earn in Michigan in order to be able to afford rent.

The reality is that many people earn well below the $15.16 an hour that is necessary to rent in Michigan. In fact, the current minimum wage in Michigan is $8.90 and hour and will only increase to $9.25 an hour in 2018.

This next slide, produced by the group, Grand Rapids Homes for All, makes the point that while rent has nearly doubled in the past 10 years, income has not for working class people.

The next several slides look at how certain vulnerable and marginalized population have numerous obstacles to face in order to find adequate and affordable housing. This first slide shows how queer and trans youth are negatively impacted because of the homophobic and transphobic culture we live in.

If you are caught within the Prison Industrial Complex, housing because even more precarious, especially since it is nearly impossible to find housing with a felony conviction in Michigan.

For those who are undocumented, finding housing is also extremely difficult. The next slide reflects what the State of Michigan says about the necessity of having documentation in order to rent.

Now, let’s turn to how gentrification impacts people throughout Grand Rapids. The real consequences of gentrification can be felt by the increased cost of rent, the physical displacement of people and the destruction of homes from development projects and the social and cultural marginalization that people experience in gentrified neighborhoods.

The first example is from the GVSU incursion into the Belknap Neighborhood, where the university took out an entire block of homes and displaced dozens of working class families in the process.

The GVSU destruction of housing also opened up opportunities for private developers, like Orion Construction to develop expensive market rate housing such as their Gateway project.

A second example can be seen on the near westside, with all the development that Rockford Construction is involved in. In the pictures below you can see just some of the houses that were demolished, which displaced numerous families.

This destruction of homes and displacement of families has paved the way for what Rockford Construction calls the “super block” project.

Another issue that is connected to all of these recent development projects resulting in the gentrification of neighborhoods, is the massive amount of state and city tax breaks being given to developers. Millions of dollars are provided in tax breaks for market rate housing projects while there is an urgent housing crisis confronting thousands of working class individuals and families. In addition, the power structure in Grand Rapids is putting an emphasis on creating more tourism and recreation while thousands of people are faced with a housing crisis.

The last slide that looks at the impact of gentrification in Grand Rapids is based on a recent Michigan Radio story called Push Out, which affirms what many people have been saying for years. The report also shows the dramatic increase in out of town and out of state investors that are buying up property since Grand Rapids housing prices have sky-rocketed.

Now lets talk a bit about how we can organize around housing justice. The slide below is making the point that we need to implement all of the ideas as a way of recognizing the intersectional nature of the housing crisis. There is no one single answer, but the need to implement a variety of tactics and strategies in order to have get what is necessary. People need to make no less than $15 an hour in order to afford the current housing costs. Tax breaks should primarily be given to those who will be building affordable housing. We have to stop tearing down houses and be about the work of rehabbing houses for working class families. The city needs to put restrictions on the amount of properties that outside investors and investors in general can own in the city. There needs to be a development process that begins with the neighborhood, where people have a direct say in any proposed development project in their communities. We need a viable Tenant Union that will be made up of tenants that are most impacted from the current housing crisis, which will allow them to engage in rent freeze campaigns, like what we see happening all across the country.

Lastly, we need to seriously look outside of government to more autonomous ideas and actions that create housing justice. What would it look like for more people to practice radical hospitality and to provide free spaces in their homes for people who are housing insecure? We don’t need more shelters, we need people willing to take care of each other. We also need to develop more coop housing options and collective living opportunities that not only could solve some of the housing crisis, but could provide a catalyst for people to experience a less expensive and less stressful life. Considering how many churches we have in this city, what would it look like for churches to buy homes and then provide them to people who want to buy or rent a home at a fair price as a means to offer concrete support for families experiencing the housing crisis. Again, we need to rehab housing and stop demolishing homes. A great model is what was started by Habitat for Humanity, a model which could be replicated by all kinds of collective entities. People could get involved with Grand Rapids Homes for All and work on the issues they are focused on, along with introducing the idea of Community Land Trusts into how we can protect and expand housing justice in the city.





Calls for a State of Emergency in Grand Rapids elicits no meaningful response from City Officials

May 10, 2017

Last night about 40 people gathered outside of city hall for a Prayer Rally for Change. The Micah Center and mothers of the 5 Grand Rapids boys who were held at gunpoint by the GRPD organized the event as a way to respond to the recent examples of oppressive behavior from the police – holding 5 African American boys at gunpoint, the traffic study and the police shooting and killing an African American man.

The who spoke and offered up prayers were from the Black and Latino/a communities and was a moving display of solidarity between the two communities. One of the mothers who’s son was held at gunpoint by the GRPD on March 24, also spoke briefly and expressed disappointment and frustration at the lack of action being taken by city officials.

After the prayer rally, people were invited to attend the Grand Rapids City Commission meeting. The room was full, with only a couple of empty seats when the meeting started. After dealing with items on the agenda, the Public Comment period was opened and dozens of people got up to speak primarily addressing the oppressive incidents and tactics by the GRPD.

Early on, Rev. Jerry Bishop spoke and said that he had invited 100 Black men to a meeting the day before to discuss the level of violence in the community and was calling for a State of Emergency. He invited the men who had met with him the night before to stand up as a demonstration of their solidarity and commitment to the demand for a State of Emergency.

Many of those same African American men got up to speak with common themes. Most of them talked about not feeling safe in the community, specifically not feeling safe when the GRPD was around. Other men fought back tears when talking about how difficult it has been to have conversations with their children about what has been happening in recent weeks and how they fear for their children’s lives.

Members of the Latino/a community also spoke about being harassed by the GRPD and that they came to mostly stand in solidarity with their Black brothers and sisters in the struggle.

Other people addressed issues around the lack of response from City officials on these matters and were “shocked” that the city has taken no concrete action based upon the demands the community has made over the past 6 weeks.

Another speaker addressed the fact that the police department consumes a full third of the City’s budget and that instead of allowing the GRPD to use so much of the taxpayers money, it should instead be diverted to providing job opportunities and to fund many of the youth-based programs that many of the African American men who were in attendance, were involved in.

In the end the Mayor said that they heard people’s concerns and thanked them for speaking. However, no verbal commitment was made by city officials last night, which this writer finds unacceptable. How can you hear community member after community member address such crucial issues and collectively call for a State of Emergency and not make some sort of commitment to take action?

One thing that the Micah Center, LINC, the NAACP=GR and MOBB United is doing is hosting meetings to discuss the 12-point plan the city has been working on since the summer of 2015. The first meeting will be held at LINC on Tuesday, May 23 from 5:30 – 8pm in the LINC Gallery, 1167 Madison Ave. SE in Grand Rapids.


More Tax Breaks for Developers while thousands are being displaced or priced out of neighborhoods in Grand Rapids

May 8, 2017

Two weeks ago Michigan Radio ran an investigative story that confirms what many of us in this community have been saying for years about the current housing crisis. Pushed Out: A documentary on housing in Grand Rapids is an important and timely contribution to the current affordable housing crisis in this city. The story makes it clear that the cost of rent and the cost of housing has skyrocketed, along with the fact that more and more companies from outside of the area and outside of the state are buying up properties all across Grand Rapids.

This recent story on Michigan Radio is what makes the recent announcement so difficult to swallow. On Thursday, MLive posted yet another story about developers asking for millions in tax breaks, Tax breaks worth $4.8M urged for 3 urban redevelopment projects. 

The article states that there are three development projects asking for $4.8 million in tax breaks. The MLive reporter then states that these projects, “will transform their city neighborhoods.”

The MLive reporter doesn’t ask how they will transform neighborhoods, not do they provide any evidence to support such a claim. These development projects many very well transform the neighborhoods they will be located in, but the question is, who will benefit from these development projects? Again, this is not a question that is asked, rather it is assumed it will benefit everyone in these neighborhoods.

One project is the develop another downtown hotel, a project that is being led by CWD, a company that owns a great deal of property in downtown Grand Rapids already and is part of the West MI power structure, as we noted in a recent posting. The 130-room hotel will certainly be a benefit to the downtown business and property owners, since it provides even more rooms for those coming to Grand Rapids on business trips or as tourists. The CWD hotel will also be run by the Amway Hotel.

The second development project will re-develop an old auto parts building and include a limousine rental business along Ann Street near US 131. One could easily draw conclusions as to who will be the class of people renting limousines, and it won’t be the working class.

The third development project is a project that will be run by Orion Real Estate Solutions, which has been a major contributor to the gentrification of Grand Rapids, with projects like the Gateway at Belknap. This new project, located at 38 College NE, which will house a four story market rate apartment building.

So yes, these project will transform the neighborhoods they are located in. These development projects will benefit the professional class, those who are upwardly mobile, which means it will disproportionately benefit white people.

In addition, the $4.8 million in tax breaks also means that it is money that does not get directed toward providing truly affordable housing for working class and communities of color. The projects and the tax breaks they receive are announced almost every week. This particular amount of $4.8 million could provide simple homes for 48 working class families, at a cost of $100,000 a piece. Even if the construction cost was $150,000 per home, it would still provide 32 homes for families who are struggling to make a living. With millions of dollars in tax breaks being offered by the state and the city on a regular basis, it could translate into hundreds of affordable housing options.

Let’s say that $5 million in tax breaks is being offered by the city and state each month (which we know to be a low estimate). This would mean there would be $60 million in tax breaks for development projects in each year. Imagine the amount of affordable housing options that could be provided in just one year for people who are currently being displaced or priced out of the neighborhoods that they live in.

Students, alumni and community groups fight to prevent Betsy DeVos from giving a commencement address next week at an historically black university

May 4, 2017

Betsy DeVos is slated to deliver the spring commencement address next Wednesday (May 10) at a private historically black university in Daytona Beach, Bethune-Cookman University.

This announcement has received a tremendous amount of push back, especially after the Secretary of Education stated in February that historically black colleges and universities were “the real pioneers when it comes to school choice” and “living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality.”

“Colleges of choice. I mean, we had no other choice but to create HBCUs,” Cynthia Slater, president of the Daytona Beach NAACP Branch, said.

The NAACP, students and residents marched for about a mile on Wednesday from New Mt. Zion Church in Daytona Beach, showing their disapproval of DeVos as BCU’s commencement speaker.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Florida chapter of the NAACP called the scheduled speech a “slap in the face to minorities, women and all communities of color.”

Students and Alumni have created a petition to demand that the university dis-invite the Secretary of Education. The petition, in part, reads:

Betsy DeVos doesn’t understand that HBCUs were created because African Americans were excluded from mainstream institutions. Secretary DeVos has no understanding of the importance, contributions, and significance of HBCUs. 

Having DeVos speak at the commencement ceremony is an insult to the BCU graduating class, students, alumni, family, friends, and Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune’s legacy.We, the proud alumni of Bethune-Cookman University, do not want Betsy DeVos to have a seat at our table. Please rescind her invitation to speak at the graduation ceremony. 

For years the school privatization movement, which has included Betsy DeVos as one of its champions, has attempted to win over the black community and push for “school choice” or school privatization. In a recent article on Black Agenda Report, Glen Ford made the following point: 

“Never in history have Black Americans marched, rallied or petitioned for private school vouchers.”

Evelyn Bethune, granddaughter of school founder Mary McLeod Bethune, said a commencement is the wrong forum for DeVos because it should be a “very sacred ceremony.”

“Graduation is a really big deal for our kids and for their families,” said Bethune, who graduated from Bethune-Cookman in 1979 and whose grandson will graduate with a master’s degree next week. “That spotlight should be on them and not on the controversy of the speaker that has been invited.”

Still, Evelyn Bethune takes exception to school administrators comparing the work of her grandmother to what DeVos stands for today. She said her grandmother was a strong proponent of education while being able to relate to common people.

“I don’t see any of that in Ms. DeVos,” said Bethune, who still lives in Daytona Beach and heads up an educational foundation and education consulting firm. “I’ve looked at her history, I’ve looked at the things that she has been connected to and I don’t see any resemblance to anything related to my grandmother.”

Grand Rapids organizes to stop ICE officials from targeting, arresting and deporting members of the immigrant community

May 3, 2017

There are an estimated 10 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, immigrants who live in constant fear of harassment, intimidation, arrest, detention and deportation.

During the Obama administration, roughly 2.7 million undocumented immigrants were deported. Under the Trump administration the anti-immigrant discourse has increased and some of the earliest Executive Orders focused on building a wall along the US/Mexican border, hiring more Immigration, Customs & Enforcement officials and deporting more immigrants that are undocumented.

The urgency to take action in response to federal policies has resulted in a growing coalition of organizers and activists that are calling themselves the Grand Rapids Immigrant Solidarity Network. This group of people has been meeting since late last year to discuss ways in which those who hold a whole lot more privilege in this society can stand in solidarity with the immigrant community.

On Monday, there was a large march in Grand Rapids, there have been forums on providing sanctuary to those living in fear, know your rights trainings to inform the immigrant community what their legal rights are and an effort to respond to the repressive practices of Immigration, Customs & Enforcement (ICE) agents. 

The campaign is called Rapid Response to ICE and consists of two major components. First, the group is distributing cards in the community that say, What to Do if ICE Shows Up? These cards are in English and in Spanish, provide information on what to do if ICE agents show up and encourage people to call 211 if they live in Kent County.

If people call 211 when ICE agents show up at their homes or places of work, they will be directed to a Rapid Response Team. The Rapid Response Team is made up of nearly 200 people who have been training in a variety of tactics and responses when ICE agents attempt to arrest, detain and deport undocumented immigrants.

There have been several trainings that have taken place in the community for Rapid Response and the next one will be help on Thursday, May 11, beginning at 6:30pm. These trainings are designed for people who want to take action and stand in solidarity with those being targeted by ICE. These trainings are not informational session, rather they are for people who are willing to use their privilege to prevent and respond to any attempted arrests, detentions and deportation of the undocumented community.

For more information on the May 11 training, go to the Facebook event and make sure you follow the instructions on how to register.

2,000 march in Grand Rapids to demand Respect, Dignity and Permanent Protection for All Immigrants

May 2, 2017

(Just as a matter of transparency. Yesterday, I participated in a march for immigrant justice by providing some security for those marching.)

An estimated 2,000 people turned out yesterday to march for dignity, respect and permanent protection against harassment, arrest and deportation.

Those marching were mostly Latinos, Latinix, and indigenous people from Mexico, Central America and numerous Caribbean nations. Some proudly displayed flags from their country of origin, while other carried signs with demands to stop Separating Families because of the decades-long policy of deporting those without documentation.

The march was organized by Movimiento Cosecha Grand Rapids, which is part of a national movement led by those most impacted by the repressive and unjust immigration policies in the US. The organizers had hoped to match the march that was held in 2006, when 10,000 people marched for immigrant rights, but fell way short of that goal.

However, in 2006, there was no clear long-term strategy and the movement died out in just a few months. Those who organized the march that was held yesterday only see this action as the beginning of a campaign to achieve dignity, respect and permanent protection for all immigrants.

The march began at Garfield Park on Burton and moved west to Division Avenue. People cheered from their porches or came out of the businesses that are along Division, while others decided to join the march.

The march organizers did not obtain a permit, since they felt that it was their right to march for what they were demanding. The GRPD was frantic before the march, calling organizers and others connected to the movement, but no one was giving up any information. The GRPD decided to close down roads on their own to clear a path for the march, but the march organizers were clear in that they were providing enough protection for marchers on their own.

At one point the march made a left onto Franklin St. and was head west towards Grandville Ave.You can see from the photo above that the cops had blocked the entire road and were determined to not let anyone continue west on Franklin.  

When the marchers arrived at the cop blockade, the GRPD then not only made it clear that people could not continue west on Franklin, but that people would be arrested if they attempted to do so. From that point on, the cops clearly wanted to dictate the march route and make sure they were in control.

Undeterred, the marchers continued along Ionia making noise and marching slower so as to draw as much attention to the march as possible to those working downtown, shopping or living in one of the many development projects that have popped up throughout the downtown in recent years. At one point the march stopped completely to allow one of the marchers to share her story that reflected the difficulty that most immigrants face when coming to the US.

At one point a band joined the march, which elicited a loud response from the marchers. The band accompanied the march until it reached its destination at the Calder Plaza. Once the march arrived, march organizers made a few brief comments about next steps. People were invited to a meeting this Saturday at 9am to talk more about the Movimiento Cosecha and how to get involved.